Interview: How 'Supernatural' Got its Groove Back in Season 8

Supernatural season 8 has been pretty great! Now this doesn’t sound like an amazing accomplishment to celebrate, but I assure you it is. After seasons 6 and 7 aired, fans were less-than-enthusiastic about the direction the show was going in, and some worried – or even hoped – that the show would be canceled. But then former writer and story editor Jeremy Carver returned to the show - this time as showrunner - and he had a plan to turn things around. And now it’s time to let him explain how it was done!

Carver’s plan, in its simplest form, began as a single notecard with “Season 10” written on it. As a writer and story editor on the Supernatural during its most revered seasons, Carver knows the series, its mythology and its characters, inside and out. In order to execute his plan that will (hopefully) lead to Supernatural season 10, he had to first overcome something many series are not able to: age.

As an 8-year-old television show, Supernatural has, perhaps more so than others, ran through almost every story imaginable. And since the established mythology of the series has made character deaths into relative non-events (deaths are  often used to help supplement weaker story arcs), the only way to truly re-energize the series, its cast and its fanbase is by great storytelling. As an example, Fox’s much-loved series House was canceled because of its inability to grow and evolve – or stay true to the series origins – as it aged.

Jeremy Carver at Comic-Con 2012

So how is it that Supernatural was able to accomplish what (many) other series haven’t been able to? For that answer, we went directly to the source, Jeremy Carver, who had just returned home from filming the Supernatural season 8 finale:

I think I’ll answer it a bit indirectly. I think there’s an impulse, especially when you get to a show that’s 8 or 9 seasons in, to go a little bit ‘hog wild’ with the mythology, and things can get so buried under the weight of the mythology that it can be a little bit hard to follow.

I guess the secret to the show is to keep it very grounded and very, very much based in the relationship between these two brothers. As long as we have that, we can take those shots at going sort of crazy in some of our episodes. But as long as we have this grounded relationship to return to; I feel that’s the secret ingredient for all 8 seasons.

To keep a show grounded after 8-years on the air is tremendously difficult; writers can become bored, and their imagination can take over in order to help keep them interested in continuing.... But just how difficult is it accomplish what Carver, as well as everyone else on Supernatural, has done?

Look, at season 8, I’m not going to lie: it’s certainly harder to come up with original stories. But when you have this base of these two brothers – as long as it always comes back to that, in one form or another - I think we’re on safe ground.

And that, it seems, is what helped rejuvenate Supernatural this season. Sam and Dean’s relationship has never been stronger, and the introduction of the Men of Letters helped fuel the mythology with a new and compelling element. There were even a few “sort of crazy” episodes (Golem) that, thanks to the strength of everything that came before it, fans were able to sit back and enjoy completely, without the frustration that seasonal story-arcs weren’t being touched upon. (Doctor Who fans can tell you just how frustrating this can be.)

Supernatural Season 8 - Bitten

But because Carver doesn't really involve himself in social media, he isn't fully aware of the fans celebration of this season; he only sometimes hears things from the writers who are. So, given all the work that’s been done, it’s only fitting to hear from Carver, himself, about what he’s most proud of this season:

One of the things that myself and the cast are proud about are some of the new supporting characters that we introduced this year [as well as] some of the new mythology – not just the overriding mythology of the tablets from this season, but the introduction of the Men of Letters. And I think everyone feels invigorated - that there’s lots of places to go now - and that’s a wonderful feeling, especially going in to season 9.

As Supernatural heads in to season 9, Jared Padalecki (Sam) and Jensen Ackles (Dean) are already on board, and Misha Collins (Castiel) will be returning in a (much) larger role than in season 8. So now, what once started out as a single notecard with “Season 10” written on it has a very good chance at becoming a reality. Not because the diehard fans want it to, but because, after all of its accomplishments, it deserves to.


The Supernatural season 8 finale airs Wednesday @9pm on The CW.

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